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Judge Rejects Challenge to BOP’s Special Administrative Measures

On January 27, 2011, U.S. District Court Judge Lewis T. Babcock dismissed a lawsuit challenging Special Administrative Measures (SAMs) imposed by the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP). SAMs are authorized under 28 C.F.R. § 501.3(a).

Mohamed Rashed Daoud Al-Owhali, serving life plus 40 years for the 1998 bombing of the U.S. embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, was placed on SAMs on October 16, 1998 while serving his sentence at ADX Florence, the federal supermax prison in Colorado.

SAMs severely restrict prisoner communication with the outside world. Al-Owhali alleged that the SAMs violated his equal protection and First Amendment associational rights, and infringed on his right to communicate confidentially with his attorneys.

A magistrate judge recommended that those claims be allowed to proceed. However, upon de novo review, Judge Babcock disagreed.

While the SAMs were allegedly “burying [Al-Owhali] alive” in solitary confinement, Judge Babcock concluded they were nothing more than the product of the government’s “rational interest in setting the conditions of confinement [of] a terrorist.”

“It is incumbent upon the [] Plaintiff to plead sufficient facts showing plausibly that there are alternative means of exercising plaintiff’s rights in question, the lack of impact accommodation of the asserted rights will have on guards and other inmates and on allocation of prisoner resources generally, and finally the absence of ready alternatives,” the district court wrote.

According to Judge Babcock, Al-Owhali failed to do this.

Al-Owhali’s counsel had compared the SAMs to the Kafkaesk conditions in The Trial, by Franz Kafka. Judge Babcock found this analogy “inept.”

In the court’s eyes, Al-Owhali received all of the “constitutional and procedural rights he was entitled” to when “he was duly convicted and sentenced for his key role” in the embassy bombing.

In effect, then, Judge Babcock believes that prisoners, upon conviction, have no rights.
See: Al-Owhali v. Holder, U.S.D.C. (D. Colo.), Case No. 1:07-CV-02214-LTB-BNB; 2011 WL 288523.

Al-Owhali filed a motion for reconsideration, which the district court denied on May 13, 2011 because he had “failed to demonstrate a change in the controlling law, the existence of new evidence, or the need to clear error or avoid manifest injustice....” See: Al-Owhali v. Holder, 2011 WL 1833104.

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Al-Owhali v. Holder

Al-Owhali v. Holder